Myrtle Beach effectively bans smokes shops on Ocean Boulevard with zoning district
A potential ordinance that would regulate smoke-centric shops and products in Myrtle Beach has some business owners fired up.
With city officials citing vape shops and tobacco products as a catalyst for ruining the city’s family-friendly image, business owners primarily selling cannabidiol (CBD) medical oils and hemp wellness products are stressing their business is a separate industry from vaping and tobacco.
“I think there’s a lot of misinformation that surrounds this industry, a lot of stigmas that go to a negative viewpoint,” David Spang, owner of Coastal Green Wellness, said during this week’s Planning Commission meeting. “We have consistently and positively impacted the day-to-day quality of life for a huge range of people, so much that there are medical practitioners who are bringing CBD up to their patients as a potential alternative to a large list of prescriptions.”
Spang admitted that while CBD products are often found in vape shops, the two are separate industries, with naturally grown and lab-tested CBD used for medical reasons instead of recreational. He added that he caters more to senior citizens looking for relief from their medical conditions.
While CBD is derived from cannabis, it doesn’t produce a psychoactive effect, or a high, like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main compound in cannabis, does.
“This plant has been bringing a lot of medical benefits to people,” USA Hemp CEO Rafael Redwood said in an interview. “With CBD there is no high, it just makes your body work more effectively.”
Redwood said his business, located in the Coastal Grand Mall, has helped people of all ages with their health conditions, including cancer, arthritis and epilepsy. He said city officials haven’t done enough research on CBD and hemp products, and instead have placed it into a “negative stereotype.”
City Council passed an ordinance in January temporarily banning the city from granting new permits to businesses selling CBD oil, electronic cigarettes and tobacco paraphernalia, as well as shops primarily selling cigars, cigarettes and/or tobacco products.
The ordinance was then passed on to the Planning Commission, which has until the end of the year to evaluate the zoning code to find an appropriate area for vape and smoke shops to operate. It also will decide if there should be any regulations on the location and whether current businesses should be grandfathered in under the potential new zoning ordinance.
While smoke and vape shops currently in business won’t be affected by the city ordinance, they will have one year to make changes if city officials approve certain regulations following the conclusion of the planning commission’s study.
“I know that it’s a difficult subject when we begin to deal with other people’s businesses and lives in any way,” Planning Chairman Bill Pritchard said.
Property owner Tim Wilkes said a year isn’t long enough for business owners to relocate or change their business model because the city says so. Wilkes also cited several family-friendly destinations like Disney World, Disneyland and others in Orlando, Fla., as being successful tourist destinations with surrounding vape shops.
Criminal defense lawyer Jonny McCoy, who is representing some vape shops throughout the city, said city officials are attempting to “circumvent” the First Amendment by placing limitations on certain businesses. It should choke you up as city officials, he said.
But this isn’t the first time vape and smoke shops have come under scrutiny by city leaders.
City council passed an ordinance last summer banning smoke and vape shops between 16th Avenue North and 6th Avenue South from selling vapor products, CBD products, clothing such as T-shirts with explicit messages and marijuana paraphernalia.
While the ban went into effect on Jan. 1, shop owners filed a federal lawsuit against the city to reverse the ordinance calling the ban unconstitutional, harmful to business and a violation of free speech. An agreement later was reached where the city may suspend any business licenses from those caught selling banned products.
However, the city later passed the first reading of the ordinance currently under consideration by the planning commission.
Pritchard said the commission would continue to research and speak with other entities within the city to field as much information as possible prior to crafting an ordinance. He also agreed to consider vaping and CBD as separate matters.
“It’s my belief with the concurrence of the commissioners that we should split the two and consider them separately,” Pritchard said. “They are different matters and they certainly, in my mind anyway, possibly warrant very different provisions as to their management within our community.”